Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
When we were lying to each other, that's when we were honest
Death is pretty much the last taboo for Western society now. It wasn't always so, the Victorians celebrated it, took photos of themselves with their dead relatives and generally carried on as if death were a normal part of life.
So any play centering on the imminent death (by his own calculation) of one of the characters drives a very fine line indeed, risking falling either into farce or melodrama, neither of which would serve the play.
L to R: Dawn (Siobhan Vincent), Ron (Ray Egan), Debbie (Belinda Djurdjevic), Tim the Undertaker (Harrison Maclennan), Michael (Richard Hadler) and Karen (Laura Williams) (Photograph by Chantelle Pitt)
It's My Party And I'll Die If I Want To at Marloo is very much that sort of play. Ron Patterson (Ray Egan), retired stationery shop owner, is an ordinary Australian bloke who is a little bit inflexible. When a doctor tells him he's got three months to live, he works out that means 10:23pm on the day the play opens.
It runs in real time, the clock on the wall ticking off the minutes to Ron's supposed impending death, while he has commanded his family of son and two daughters to join him and his wife Dawn (Siobhan Vincent) in one last party celebration of Pavlova and partypies.
The play is an examination of the family's relationships and the secrets they all carry presented in a fast paced comedic style that has you laughing until you draw breath and think, hang on was that funny? A true black comedy.
So much for the play, which is smoothly written and artfully plotted.
As to the production, we have become used to excellence from the Darlington Theatre Players at Marloo Theatre, but this was beyond community theatre and well into professional standards.
We routinely expect old hands like Egan and Vincent to do well, but what I was frankly not prepared for was the truly ensemble acting where each member of the five person cast (plus a brief undertaker) balanced perfectly against each other, trusting and working together.
Newcomers to Marloo stage as daughters Debbie (Belinda Djurdjevic) and Karen (Laura Williamson) were a revelation. So young and yet so skilled. Richard Hadler as the troubled son was entirely convincing and the interaction between the five was as true a reflection of a family as I think I've ever seen on stage.
Director Brendan Tobin (Photograph courtesy B Tobin)
Director Brendan Tobin, making I think his debut as a straight play director, although he has pantos and musicals under his belt as well as a very long career as a professional performer, has made the most of the skills of his actors moulding each separate strand into a wonderfully cohesive whole.
A George Boyd set is always a joy, bit this one is beyond anything from the flawless box set to the myriad of mementos, knick-knacks, prints and blondewood furniture. He and Properties Manager, Lesley Sutton must have had a ball. I was a trifle surprised not to see a Tretchikoff, however as that was an essential part of every lounge when I was young.
If you don't often go to see live theater, if you think you're too busy or are in two minds, if you ever believe anything I say, DO NOT MISS THIS. It's My Party is a flawless production. Community theatre at its very best.
It's My Party runs from the 1st of May til the the 16th. Tickets cost $20 and may be arranged by ringing Gwynn on 9255 1783 or booking online at the TryBooking website here.